July 30, 2009

I'd Like a Double-Double Please, and Hold the Onion

The recent dust-up over Amazon's decision to delete George Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984 from customers' Kindle readers has raised awareness about the shortcomings of the ebook. When it first came out, I was excited about the Kindle. The conveniences that the portable ebook reader boasted were attractive:the relative affordability of ebooks compared to the traditional book; the ability to download books anytime, anywhere; and the capability to store your entire reading library on a single device that you can take with you on the go. But there are some drawbacks:

1. Ebooks can't be resold;
2. Ebooks can't be loaned to friends or donated to the library;
3. Ebooks may eventually contain advertisements.

This last item concerns me. The talk out there is that ebooks will continue to be cheaper because of ad sponsorship, but traditional books will actually be more expensive as a result. Don't want to see ads in your copy of the latest Dan Brown novel? You'll have to pay extra for that. It seems wrong to pay more for something you aren't getting. Would you pay more for a cheeseburger with no onion than for one with onion? Not me. And it bothers me that Amazon had no qualms about logging onto Kindle readers in the middle of the night and arbitrarily deleting ebooks that customers had legal ownership of. Amazon has since apologized and claims it won't happen again in the future, but the very fact that they have the technological capability to do this is worrisome. I won't be purchasing a Kindle anytime soon.

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